First, the bad news. Over time, your breasts will naturally start to sag a little. The reason? Breasts are mainly made up of fat – along with glands and connective tissue, which help keep them pert and firm. But when oestrogen levels start to fall due to the menopause, those connective tissues begin to shrivel and are replaced with fat. That's why a woman with heavy breasts may see her nipples drop by as much as 10cm over a lifetime.
The good news, though, is that you're not powerless in all of this.
“There are plenty of things a woman can do to prevent, slow or disguise the drop,” says Chris Cole, senior physiotherapist at Spire Parkway Hospital in Solihull. “They might not seem a lot when taken individually – but put together, these little things can make a big difference.”
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Why watch your weight?
Top of Cole's list are a couple of lifestyle tips that will doubtless seem strangely familiar – because they're standard pieces of health advice.
“Try to maintain a steady body weight,” he suggests. “Fluctuating weight can contribute to the tensioning and slackening of breast tissue, so hasten sagging. Watching your weight is important, but drastic losses followed by weight gain can also cause the breasts to sag.”
His second tip? Don't smoke. “As if you needed another reason! Smoking can contribute to the breakdown of elastin in the body's connective tissues. Elastin allows many bodily tissues to resume their shape after stretching or contracting, and is also a load-bearing tissue – so it's responsible for keeping your breasts in shape.”
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How does exercise affect your breasts?
A word about exercise now. Because breasts are composed of fatty tissue, not muscle, there are sadly no specific moves that will tone the breasts themselves.
“But by working on your upper body – and the supportive chest muscles in particular – you can preserve a stable base beneath the fatty breast tissue,” Cole explains. A few suggestions? Try lifting light weights, rowing or swimming breast stroke.
While it becomes increasingly important to stay fit and active as we age, it's also worth remembering that the fitness activities you choose could actually have a negative impact on your cleavage. When we run, for example, our unsupported breasts perform a figure-of-eight movement that stretches the connective tissue beyond repair.
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Which sports bra is best for you?
The solution, of course, isn't to stop running. You simply need to ensure you have maximum support from a specialist sports bra. Trust us, you'll noticed the difference immediately.
In fact, sports bras can reduce breast movement by up to 73 per cent, compared to bra-less running, according to research at the University of Portsmouth.
There are three main types of sports bra.
Compression bras are suitable for smaller cup sizes, and work – as the name suggests – by compressing the breasts against the chest wall.
Encapsulation bras offer more support by lifting and separating both breasts.
Combination bras are a mixture of the two.
Confused? It's a good idea to visit a store with a specialist bra-fitting service to ensure you choose the right size and style for you.
What else helps?
Adjusting your posture can make a big difference to the way your breasts look, too. “Stand tall with your shoulders back,” Cole advises. “This physiotherapy mantra is normally based around function issues, but it has obvious aesthetic benefits, too. There's also a link with exercise here: maintaining strong posterior, shoulder and scapula muscles will directly benefit your posture, which in turn helps give breasts a lift.”
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Finally, staying hydrated – both by drinking water and applying moisturiser – will benefit your overall skin health, including the stretchmark-prone skin on your breasts.
There are various specialist breast creams on the market – but there's no need to spend a fortune. Mr Aslam, head surgeon at Linea Cosmetic Surgery, advises women to apply aloe vera gel. “It has natural skin-tightening properties that help reduce sagginess,” he explains.
So keep up the healthy habits and invest in a good sports bra and you'll be well on the way to defeating the drop. Now, hasn't that given you a lift?